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Morning Kennedy Roundup

August 27, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

News of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s [D, MA] death has turned today to speculation about what it will mean for the healthcare debate, who will fill his seat, and how committee line-ups will change. Here’s a quick roundup of some of the news this morning:

Momentum building for a temporary successor until the seat can be filled by special election in January (Boston Globe):

Governor Deval L. Patrick, breaking his silence on the future of Edward M. Kennedy’s Senate seat, yesterday embraced Kennedy’s request that the governor be given the power to appoint someone to the seat until voters can choose a permanent successor in a special election.

“I’d like the Legislature to take up the bill quickly and get it to my desk and I will sign it,’’ Patrick said in an interview with the Globe, reiterating in his strongest terms what he had been saying throughout the day, as the state and nation absorbed Kennedy’s death and what it would mean for Massachusetts, and for the chamber he served for a half-century.

How will Kennedy’s death change the health care deabte? (New York Times):

The death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy has quickly become a rallying point for Democratic advocates of a broad health care overhaul, a signature Kennedy issue that became mired in partisanship while he fought his illness away from the Capitol.

“The passion of his life was health care reform,” said Representative David R. Obey, the liberal Wisconsin Democrat who is chairman of the Appropriations Committee. “Above all else, he would want us to redouble our efforts to achieve it.”

Kennedy’s death provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Massachusetts politicians (Politico):

The death of Democratic titan Sen. Ted Kennedy, which creates the first Senate opening in Massachusetts in 25 years, is likely to release the pent-up ambitions of a long line of Democrats who will find the upcoming special election hard to pass up.

Several of them have already been jockeying behind the scenes for months over the possibility of a Senate vacancy. Since under current Massachusetts election law Kennedy’s successor will be selected in a special election — likely to be held in late January 2010 — the contest will be especially attractive to sitting officeholders who would not have to give up their seats to run.

There’s going to be some shuffling of committee chairs (Politico):

Sen. Ted Kennedy’s death leaves a vacancy atop the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that could have a domino effect on a number of other key committees and potentially change the course of health care and financial industry legislation. 

Kennedy’s close friend, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, has been running the HELP Committee while Kennedy was absent fighting cancer. Now, many Senate insiders believe Dodd will become chairman of the HELP Committee at a critical moment in the health care debate and at a critical moment for Dodd’s own reelection hopes. […]

The next in line in seniority for Banking is moderate Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), but Johnson himself has taken a low profile since the end of 2006, when he collapsed from bleeding in the brain. It’s possible that the more liberal Jack Reed (D-R.I.) could leapfrog Johnson to become chairman.
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